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Am J Pathol. 1994 May; 144(5): 927–937.
PMCID: PMC1887352

Interleukin-6 exacerbates glomerulonephritis in (NZB x NZW)F1 mice.


The ability of interleukin-6 (IL-6) to modulate immune parameters and mesangial cell function suggests a role for this cytokine in the development of autoimmune glomerulonephritis. This hypothesis was tested in 6-month-old female (NZB x NZW)F1 mice that were administered recombinant human IL-6 (rhIL-6) (50 and 250 micrograms/kg s.c.) for 12 weeks, resulting in an accelerated and severe form of membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis associated with marked upregulation of mesangial major histocompatibility complex class II antigen and glomerular ICAM-1 expression. To distinguish direct effects of rhIL-6 on the renal mesangium from those mediated through the immune system, (NZB x NZW)F1 mice were immunosuppressed with cyclosporin. Immunosuppression by cyclosporin inhibited the development of glomerulonephritis, decreased class II antigen expression, and abrogated IL-6-mediated effects. Administration of neutralizing anti-IL-6 antibody had no effect on the spontaneous development of glomerulonephritis in (NZB x NZW)F1 mice. This finding, together with undetectable IL-6 serum levels, makes a pathogenetic role of endogenously produced IL-6 in this disease model unlikely. In contrast to (NZB x NZW)F1 mice, parental NZW or BALB/c mice given high doses of rhIL-6 (500 micrograms/kg) or recombinant murine IL-6 (100 micrograms/kg) daily for 4 weeks failed to develop morphological or biochemical evidence of glomerulonephritis. Induction of acute phase proteins, anemia, thrombocytosis, and induction of renal class II antigen confirmed the biological activity of IL-6 in these mice. In conclusion, while non-nephritogenic in normal mice, IL-6 accelerates the development of the genetically determined glomerulonephritis of (NZB x NZW)F1 mice through effects mediated by a modulated immune system. Since neutralizing IL-6 antibody treatment did not prevent the development of glomerulonephritis, it is unlikely that increased IL-6 production plays a role in the pathogenesis of lupus nephritis.

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